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Jeremiah Zurenda, and his son, Jett, enjoyed a day of crappie fishing on Thursday at Elk City Lake. The lake has made a comeback in recent years and is a hot spot for crappie in western Oklahoma right now. [PHOTO BY JEREMIAH ZURENDA]

Jeremiah Zurenda, and his son, Jett, enjoyed a day of crappie fishing on Thursday at Elk City Lake. The lake has made a comeback in recent years and is a hot spot for crappie in western Oklahoma right now. [PHOTO BY JEREMIAH ZURENDA]


The erratic weather has knocked back the crappie fishing so far this spring, but Oklahoma's most sought-after game fish is starting to bite.

At the state's biggest crappie hole, Lake Eufaula, anglers are catching fish in less than 2 feet of water. If the weather stays warm, the crappie fishing should be outstanding this week as the fish move close to shore to spawn.

Across Oklahoma, now is the time to grab a pole and go fishing for crappie, bass and just about everything.

Jon West, fisheries biologist in the east-central region for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said crappie on Lake Tenkiller and Fort Gibson Lake have yet to move up on the banks, but the fish “should be active with the upcoming warming trend.”

Bass are in the pre-spawn mode on Fort Gibson. Anglers in last week's Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River found some bass on spawning beds and some over brush piles in a little deeper water, mostly using jigs to catch fish, West said.

Anglers always think mostly of eastern Oklahoma when it comes to good crappie fishing, but “Elk City Lake is pretty hot right now for crappie,” said Ryan Ryswyk, southwest region fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department.

The 240-acre lake just south of Elk City was a popular fishing spot for local anglers until 2014 when the lake experienced a fish kill due to poor water quality and lack of dissolved oxygen, Ryswyk said. However, the lake made a quick recovery when it was filled in the spring rains of 2015, he said.

The Wildlife Department has restocked the lake since the fish kill with sunfish, gizzard shad, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish and saugeye, and the fishing is likely better than it has been in years after three growing seasons, Ryswyk said.

“The fishery is thriving right now, and you will be hard-pressed to find a hotter crappie fishing spot in western Oklahoma at the moment,” he said.

Kaw Lake near Ponca City also has an excellent reputation as a crappie lake, and the fishing is just now starting to pick up, said Bill Wentroth, north-central region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

“I would predict that the crappie will be moving to the shoreline in the next seven days and the fishing activity will be getting really good up at Kaw Lake,” he said.

At Lake Texoma and other lakes in the south-central part of the state, crappie fishing has been inconsistent, most likely because the weather has as well, said Matt Mauck, south-central region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

“I'll hear of crappie being caught in good numbers in shallow water and then the next report I hear is deep water or poor success,” he said. “With the warm weather in the near future, I'd focus on shallow water over the next week or two.”

Striped bass fishing on Lake Texoma has been fair to good with both bait and artificial lures working, he said.

“Fish are likely in various stages of the spawn and are spread out between the river systems and the main lake,” he said. “The best success with artificial lures has been in the mid-lake with better water clarity. The shad spawn should start shortly, which generally kicks off the topwater season in the early morning hours.”

The fishing really improved last week on northeast Oklahoma lakes, said Josh Johnston, northeast region fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department.

“Crappie are on the banks and biting at many of our smaller reservoirs, and not far behind on the larger ones,” Johnston said. “Bass seem to be on the banks everywhere, either spawning or very close. We've seen some really nice largemouth in 1 to 5 feet of water while electrofishing over the past 10 days.”

In the Oklahoma City area, Lake Arcadia and Lake Thunderbird are two pretty good crappie holes where the fishing has been decent but not gangbusters.

“There has been some good crappie caught (on Lake Arcadia) but they are in between a lot of little ones,” said Leon Mixer, Arcadia Lake maintenance supervisor. “The water temperature really needs to come up at least another eight degrees. It seems like our temperature here has been up and down more than in years past.

“On the other hand, they have been catching several saugeye here but they are right at being keeper-length.”

Bass fishing and catfishing also have been decent on Arcadia Lake, he said.

Brenda Wood, manager of Little River Marina on Lake Thunderbird, said anglers are catching a lot of little crappie with a few slabs caught in between.

“One out of every seven caught is a keeper,” she said. “They haven't moved in yet. They are catching them deep, in the (boat) slips up against structure.”

Like other lakes across the state, the crappie spawn is later than usual on Lake Thunderbird because of the inconsistent spring weather which has kept the water colder than normal, Woods said. However, she expects crappie will be moving close to shore to spawn in the next two weeks.

“All of the slabs (being caught) have been loaded with eggs,” she said.

Bass tournament to benefit OWMA

The Oklahoma Wildlife Management Association will sponsor its third annual bass fishing tournament on Saturday.

Anglers will vie for four prizes totaling $2,000. Teams can be composed of either one or two persons.

Private and public waters throughout Oklahoma and north Texas can be fished during the tournament.

Registration is $100 per team and ends Friday at 4 p.m. Participants may register online at

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›